To hear both sides talk about RSL's first selection in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft — attacking midfielder Enzo Martinez — it's clear that the choice is a match made in soccer heaven.
"He's got some bite, he can cover some ground and he really wanted to play for us," RSL general manager Garth Lagerway said of Martinez, who is fresh off an NCAA national championship as a junior at North Carolina. "He's everything you can ask for in a midfielder."
A part of Generation adidas — a joint venture between Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer with the goal of raising the level of soccer talent — the 5-foot-7 Martinez had nine goals and 10 assists last season, and finished his career with 22 goals and 20 assists.
"This is absolutely awesome," said Martinez, a native of Uruguay, said. "It think it's a blessing to say that I'm a member of Real Salt Lake. I've been so blessed to win championships at the club level, high school level and college level. Hopefully I can add another championship to my resume with Real Salt Lake."
Lagerway confirmed that the excitement was a mutual feeling.
"We didn't pick Enzo; he almost picked us," Lagerway said. "He's an awesome kid. He's humble, he's hungry and he's combative. We were surprised he was available, and delighted that he fell as far as he did."
RSL had a total of three picks, and Lagerway said the process couldn't have gone better.
"In the five drafts I've done since I've been here, this is the first time that every time it was our turn to pick, the top guy on our board was available," he said. "That's fortuitous, but look, everybody feels good today, but the real question is how everybody feels in a month."
Real Salt Lake used its second selection — the draft's 24th pick they acquired in a trade from Chivas USA — to pick Diogo de Almeida, a defender originally from Brazil.
Head coach Jason Kreis is excited to see what Almeida — who scored four goals while starting 20 games as a senior at Southern Methodist — can do to help the team.
"He's very athletic; he's a technically gifted left-footed left back who can get up and down the field and contribute for us at some point."
The 6-foot-3 Almeida was part of the NSCAA Scholar-Athlete All-America First Team.
With the 36th pick, RSL picked Sebastian Velasquez, a midfielder from Los Angeles who played at Spartanburg Methodist College.
Lagerway says the 5-foot-10 Velasquez, who played on a club team with Martinez in Colombia, has potential.
"He's a little bit unproven, but we hope he can come in and play at a high level."
NOTES: Duke's Andrew Wenger was, as expected, taken as the draft's first pick by the expansion Montreal Impact. Also a part of Generation adidas, Wenger was the ACC offensive player of the year last season and the defensive player of the year in the ACC this season. Wenger, who finished with 17 goals and eight assists this season, won the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top soccer player in the NCAA.
Former Jordan High School standout Jake Hustedt was taken by the San Jose Earthquakes with the 25th pick. Hustedt, a midfielder, was named First-Team All-Pac-12 while playing with the University of Washington after transferring from Cal Poly.
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